In Canada, unlike the United States, equality of the sexes is enshrined in our Constitution. I grew up believing that this meant that I would be treated equally, that there was nothing I would not be able to do because I was a woman. Ha! Equal treatment under the law and equal treatment by your peers, or other individuals you encounter in your day-to-day life, are not the same thing. If they were, then why have I had clients just assume that I was the secretary? If I were a guy, the assumption would have been lawyer first, legal assistant second, not vice versa.
Growing up with this idea of equality meant that the realization that these women were targeted and killed simply because they were women shocked me to the core, simply because I was too young to realize that there were still a lot of men out there mad about the fact that We were out in the workplace. That We had the audacity to pursue traditionally male professions. That We were still an easy target for blame.
It may have been 21 years since that awful December day, but women entering the workforce today, particularly in those male-dominated professions such as engineering, bear no such illusions as to the road they will have to walk in order to succeed. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms may have allowed for a brief period of bliss (you know, where ignorance lives?) during which we could pretend that the words in law and the words in practice were the same. Marc Lepine tore off that blindfold with a sickening rip, tearing the fabric that had brought us all together. He showed Us who was still boss.
We have begun the process of stitching it back together. It is not uncommon now for women to be the primary breadwinners for a family. There are more women than men at universities across the country (although not in all faculties, but that gap is closing). And while little girls like my daughter will be able to dream about being an astronaut or a fighter pilot without people telling them they can't do it "because you're a girl", they will have a better idea of what's in store for them.
I am not fatalistic enough to imagine that my daughter and her friends will be herded to one side of a classroom while their male counterparts are forced to watch their murders, but the lesson of that day is this: do not take anything for granted.
I had the opportunity to visit the memorial at l'Ecole Polytechnique and I had a similar feeling as when I visited Dachau, the concentration camp located just outside of Munich, Germany. That was horror on a much grander scale, of course, but as I read the names of those women I thought of the importance that their deaths not be forgotten. I hope that someday we know their names with more familiarity than we do their killer's.
- Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
- Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
- Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
- Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
- Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
- Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
- Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
- Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
- Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
- Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
- Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student